(Michael Portantiere’s article appeared 1/14 in Playbill Online, 1/14; via Pam Green.)
"Editing Without Betraying Jonathan's Conception" — The 1996 Interview About Rent's Finishing Touches
As the 20th anniversary of Rent's Off-Broadway debut approaches, we look back to our 1996 interview with musical director Tim Weil, who talked about putting the finishing touches on the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical after Jonathan Larson's unexpected passing.
Life imitates art often enough that people of the theatre might well be tempted to involve themselves only in romantic comedies with happy endings. But when Jonathan Larson chose to write a rock musical based on a famous opera, it wasn't The Elixir of Love or The Marriage of Figaro that sparked his creative flame. Rather, it was La Bohème — Puccini's immortal vision of love and death amidst a group of struggling young artists in Paris circa 1830, itself an adaptation of a novel by Henry Murger — which served as the model for Rent, winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for drama. The central tragedy of the story was replicated when Larson died in his apartment from an aortic aneurysm on Jan. 25, a few hours after the final dress rehearsal of his crowning achievement at the New York Theatre Workshop.